Literature totally counts as science, right? Anyway.
Really? Really? Bear in mind that there are 3 million E-reader users in all of the USA, and probably fewer than 5 million in the entire world. If this was true, E-reader owners must be reading – or at least buying – hundreds of books a day just to keep up with their more traditional counterparts.
E-book sales have in fact simply outstripped hardback book sales on Amazon.com. Hardback books do not make up anywhere near the bulk of book sales by volume, which is what the numbers in the article are based on. Hardback is a prestige format used mostly for books that are likely to win awards, sell extremely well on release, or can be sold to a captive market (*cough*massively overpriced physics textbooks*cough*). It’s also big – i.e., annoying to order online. Paperbacks can be mass produced and stored far more cheaply, and are much more convenient for carrying, which is why they sell by the hundred-thousand, especially at airports and railway stations.
For reference, over the last year, I’ve bought something in the region of 30 books. Only 3 were hardbacks – Kraken by China Miéville, Leviathan by Scott Westerfield and In Great Waters by Kit Whitfield – and only because I was desperate to read them on release, rather than waiting a year for the paperback.
And then there’s the fact that Amazon are only working off their own sales figures – the sales of books from brick-and-mortar stores is ignored. According to the most recent data, the Association of American Publishers (which took me a whole 30 seconds Googling to find) said the sales of E-books made up 8.48% of the total sales of trade books in May – in other words, $29.3 million of E-books were sold, for $138.5 million of adult hardback and $165.3 million of adult paperback, not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars more on children’s books and non-fiction. And that’s just in the United States, of course. In the UK, where Amazon has still not officially released the Kindle, the figure will be lower. And of course, this is all in the first world – if we were to take booksales world wide, including high population newly industrialised nations like India and China, E-book sales must vanish into insignificance.
8.48% of American mass-market sales is still an interesting figure, but hardly the total domination Amazon implies. This article is, like most technology articles these days, a piece of churnalism where an advertorialising press release gets chopped up a little then posted without analysis.* Amazon says E-books outsell dead tree books, the press snatches up the comment and prints it without even questioning the claim – though in fairness, most of the other papers seem to have noticed that hardbacks are not “all books”. Just like they always do.
* In this case, the Daily Mail has failed to even convert currencies properly, simply replacing the dollar sign for the pound sign, which leads to the daft idea of a price cut from $259 to £189 – which would actually be a rise from £169 to £189.